Seoul American Middle School health and physical education teachers Lori Cannon, foreground, and Amie Woo learn how to use a new School Management System program during a “technology” training day Thursday at the school on Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.

Seoul American Middle School health and physical education teachers Lori Cannon, foreground, and Amie Woo learn how to use a new School Management System program during a “technology” training day Thursday at the school on Yongsan Garrison, South Korea. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — As base youth woefully watched the last minutes of their summer vacation tick away, teachers and administrators spent a week prepping for Tuesday’s first day of school and the 2005-’06 school year.

Many of the more than 4,000 students who walk through the doors Tuesday will be new to the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea. But so will almost 100 of the staff, said DODDS-Korea Assistant Superintendent Peter Grenier.

Grenier understands the challenges of taking a new job in South Korea. He transferred to Seoul on Aug. 3, coming from a stint at the DODDS-Japan district chief of staff.

Compared to a stateside school, DODDS schools have a “very high turnover” rate, he said. Teachers take advantage of the system’s transfer policy, with many seeking positions in Europe. That leaves openings in Korea each year, which Grenier said is often a good thing.

The new teachers “fresh from college” bring with them the most current educational trends.

But of course, he added, “We have to train them.”

And many teachers are hired locally. Most, Grenier said, are married to base personnel who rotate on a regular basis, leaving even more openings.

During the week-long preparation, teachers focused on educational initiatives, curriculum implementation, technology and lesson planning. In addition, many studied for driver’s license tests, searched for apartments and began the transition to life in the military community in South Korea.

Grenier said parents and students could expect “to experience a continuation of academic excellence, high expectations on the part of the district leadership and successful educational opportunities for all students.”

Kristen Stone, in her second year teaching reading with DODDS, said she’s excited to start the year.

After 10 years in a large public school system in Houston, she said she likes the small-town community at Yongsan “much better.”

“I like the ability to still use teacher standards but not be so test-driven,” she said.

Part of Stone’s job is teaching READ 180, part of a DODDS-Pacific/DODDS-Guam Pacific Literacy Project to help achieve Department of Defense Education Activity goals.

According to information provided by DODDS-Korea, each school has literary support specialists “who work with small groups of struggling readers” and literacy facilitators “who help classroom teachers implement “research- based literacy instruction.”

Grenier summed it up by saying, “we want to help our children become better readers and writers.”

Darrell Mood, Seoul American Middle High School teacher, said he takes great pride that many DODDS teachers are military veterans, community family members and, in some cases, former DODDS students.

The big turnover of teachers is “not a major challenge when you have professionals,” he said. “We look forward to new people.”

Mood predicted a successful year, citing Dizzy Dean’s famous quote: “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.”

“And we’re doing it,” he said.

Grenier said other behind-the-scenes improvements occurred over the summer, from installing a new database to information technology power upgrades at Seoul American Elementary School. Osan American High School at Osan Air Base saw the installation of a new public address system and better courtyard drainage.

Korea superintendent Charles Toth, a 26-year DODDS veteran, called Korea a “very great place to be,” saying he enters each school year with great enthusiasm.

“A parent couldn’t look for a better place to educate their children than in a DODDS school,” he said — a statement he said he makes “as a parent, teacher and administrator.”

Got questions?

Korea District, DSN 738-5922:

Charles Toth, superintendentPeter Grenier, assistant superintendentWarren Tobin, chief of staffSeoul American Elementary School, DSN 736-4613:

Don Christensen, principalJoan Islas, assistant principalDavid Petree, assistant principalSeoul American Middle School, DSN 736-7364:

Darrell Mood, principalSamia Mounts, assistant principalSeoul American High School, DSN 738-8140:

Kathleen Barbee, principalBernard Hipplewith, assistant principalOsan American Elementary School, DSN 784-6912:

Linda Kidd, principalOsan American High School, DSN 784-9096:

Marie Cullen, principalGeorgia Watters, assistant principalHumphreys American Elementary School, DSN 753-8894:

Donna Kacmarski, principalTaegu American School, DSN 768-9500:

Helen Bailey, principalMarguerite Green, assistant principalKathleen Stander, assistant principalPusan American School, DSN 768-9500:

Keith Henson, principalC.T. Joy Elementary School, DSN 762-5477:

Raymond Paulson, principalDates to remember

Aug. 30: First day of schoolSept. 5: Labor DayOct. 10: Columbus DayNov. 3: Last day of first quarterNov. 4: Teacher Work Day; no schoolNov. 7: First day of second quarterNov. 11: Veterans DayNov. 24: Thanksgiving DayNov. 25: Recess DayDec. 13: Accelerated withdrawal dateDec. 19-Jan. 2: Winter recessJan. 16: Martin Luther King Jr. DayJan. 26: End of first semesterJan. 27: Teacher work day; no schoolJan. 30: First day of third quarterFeb. 20: Presidents DayApril 6: End of third quarterApril 7: Teacher Work Day; no schoolApril 10-16: Spring RecessMay 17: Accelerated withdrawal dateMay 29: Memorial DayJune 15: Teacher work day; no schoolJune 16: Last day of schoolFrom staff reports and DODDS Korea District

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